Despite what her quirky, oddball behavior on "American Idol" this season might suggest, judge Paula Abdul insists she is not on drugs.
"I'm not addicted to pills of any kind," the singer told People magazine in the issue hitting stands Friday. Instead, Abdul said, her behavior is a result of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, a rare neuropathic disorder she was diagnosed with in November that causes debilitating pain.
Abdul told the magazine she kept her condition a secret from her fellow judges but decided to come clean to the public after reading some harsh comments from fans on the show's message boards.
"One said I was on drugs. Another described me as acting spaced out. Then someone else criticized me for being animated. They wrote, 'Look at Paula dancing up there with the contestants. Only someone on drugs would do that.' It was so hideous and mean," she told the magazine. Fans also took notice of the judge's sharper tongue this season, an apparent 360 from her formerly sweet demeanor (see " 'Idol' Fans Notice Paula's Finally Tellin' It Straight Up").
The 42-year-old ex-cheerleader and choreographer, who broke big as a singer in the late '80s, said she's been battling chronic pain since first suffering a neck injury at 17. Her condition worsened after "a couple of car accidents" in the '80s and a 1992 plane crash. "The pain would be so excruciating I'd cry all the time. I knew something was wrong, but I hid it from people. No one knew," she said.
Abdul began to experience "seizurelike episodes," she said, and once awoke to find half her body paralyzed. She was taken to the hospital and given an injection that helped her body move again. Between 1998 and 2002, Abdul underwent a dozen operations to help correct an injured disc in her neck. She admits she took so much pain medication at the time that it made her "loopy," but after the singer fell into a deep depression, she ditched the pills, choosing to live with the pain, she told People.
Now, thanks to the anti-inflammatory drug Enbrel, Abdul said she's finally living a pain-free life. However, the singer has faced her share of ups and downs over the past few months, including a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge in December. She was fined $900 for the incident and put on two years' probation (see "Paula Abdul Pleads No Contest In Freeway Hit-And-Run").
Despite the hardships, the singer said she's ready to press on and revive her long-shelved music career. Fellow "Idol" judge Randy Jackson will be producing Abdul's comeback record.
"I wonder how I got through all the time. If people only knew what I've gone through with pain and pills," Abdul said. "I'm dancing for joy at the fact that not even a year ago I was in so much pain I could hardly get up. From where I was to where I am is a miracle. It's beyond a miracle."